DETROIT — The Rays started Friday flexing more of the muscle that had them unexpectedly leading the majors in home runs, Steven Souza Jr. going deep on the game's second pitch.
But they ended up extending their winning streak to four the old-fashioned and, for them, somewhat elusive way with a handful of clutch two-out hits, leading to a 7-5 win over the Tigers.
"Credit to our lineup, top to bottom tonight, for getting guys on and coming up with those big hits,'' said Kevin Kiermaier, who had the biggest, a tiebreaking, bases-clearing triple in the sixth.
It was the sixth straight game the Rays scored six or more runs, tying a team record.
And they just about needed it all, due to some shaky defense that forced a command performance from the bullpen, Erasmo Ramirez, Enny Romero and Alex Colome teaming for the final 11 outs, as they climbed over .500, at 20-19, for just the second time this season.
"That was interesting, to say the least,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "Generally, we play pretty crisp games defensively. Tonight was not one of those games. Good thing the bats piled on some runs for us because we had a couple mental lapses out there.''
Or, as Kiermaier, said, "We make it interesting. But as long as we win these interesting games, it's all that matters.''
Matt Andriese came into the game with a 15-inning scoreless streak, which ended in the second inning on, of all things, a balk. He wasn't as sharp as his first two starts, lasting only 51/3 innings, allowing four runs, though he did improve to 3-0.
The Rays took a 3-0 lead in the first on Souza's homer and two-out hits by Corey Dickerson and Logan Morrison, who drove in a run for the third straight game. But the Tigers tied it, getting one on the balk, and two on a Miguel Cabrera homer after the Rays had one of those lapses, failing to turn a double play due to positioning from a shift.
The sixth was the key inning.
The Rays had gone down 10 straight before Evan Longoria, extending his hitting streak to eight games, led off with a single, and Steve Pearce walked, ending starter Anibal Sanchez's night. A two-out walk by Morrison loaded the bases. Then Kiermaier, also on an eight-game streak, took advantage of the spacious grounds, lacing a ball into the rightfield corner that cleared the bases. It was Kiermaier's third career triple in seven games at Comerica Park.
"It's all about placement,'' he said.
But Andriese put two on with one out, and Cash, trying to avoid going directly to Ramirez, summoned Ryan Webb for a rare high-leverage outing. That backfired, quickly, as Webb allowed a pair of hard-hit singles, and Cash had to use Ramirez anyway. That worked, as Longoria, Pearce and Morrison teamed for a dazzling double play.
Pearce opened the eighth with another homer, the team's 60th overall, to provide extra cushion, and Romero coolly handled the bottom half. Colome overcame an error by shortstop Brad Miller, who had a shaky game in the field, to get through the ninth for his 11th save in as many chances.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.